The competition grand prize was shared by two essays: “Kneng” from Loigie Sewo Onda, a 20 year-old Development Communication student from General Santos City and “Meet Her at the End of the Road” by Elaija P. Sebarios, a 22 year-old Accounting student from Ozamis City.
by Loigie Sewo Onda
I was born on a dark night in a farm owned by a person my parents worked for. My mother only had a feeble fire going as she pushed me out of her womb. As I grew up, I loved to bask in the sun during the day but darkness continued to hound me at night. Our family burned the dried fruit of a tree to light our home when the bright moon is absent from the skies. When I started schooling, we used a gasera so I could study. I would forever associate the foul smell of kerosene with my elementary days (and nights).
It took years before electric lines reached our far-flung barangay and all those time, I thought, what could be a more reliable energy source, one that is renewable and will not put my family’s health at risk? Time has passed and I have the answer now. The solution had always been staring me in the face – as I lounged in the fields in my youth. The warm sun could have given us the light that we were deprived of back then. Solar power is an energy source that offers potentials for sustainable development. In the present, I have observed it to be a type of energy that renews itself on a regular basis as some of the street lights in the city are solarpowered. If only I had access to this earlier, I would have experienced brighter nights and more refreshing air since this energy source is cleaner. I wish this greener energy source would eventually find widespread use in Mindanao. Wouldn’t we want to protect our natural resources and secure the future of our home planet? Solar power benefits the majority and will not cause environmental degradation compared to traditional energy sources. People and animals will benefit from this clean energy. I have high hopes that it will certainly be of help not just to the lowlanders but also those who live in the mountains. I imagine buildings with solar panels and farms glinting with solar catchers like sunflowers. Like the green fields nourished by the sun, Mindanao will be a solar-powered island.
In my language, (Blaan), “Kneng” is a word that means, “light.” This sums up my pursuit in life: always chasing the light, persevering even when there is always the threat of darkness. This, I think is also my vision of Mindanao. We can power it up with brightness and optimism.
by Elaija P. Sebarios
Screeching the tip of the pencil against the sketchpad, I can hear the stridulating crickets and my breathing while painstakingly working on a caricature of a woman in wheelchair with her broomstick. The night is young but I could hardly hear the noise of the streets outside. With the deafening silence, it dawned on me how environmental capitalism superseded neoliberalism in 2030. Guess whose generation ignited this global turnaround?
Perhaps you burned all the midnight candles for me to savor this envisioned future. The melancholy of delicate Sampaguita scents dancing in my nostrils would have been the acrid smell of smokes freed by the coal plant nearby. Those creases between your eyebrows are incontestably traces of conundrum whether business tycoons should exploit our natural resources or we preserve the sanctity of Mindanao as His gift from above.
Yesterday, I happened to chitchat with a mid-50s woman who keeps Yakal Park clean – a recreational park where I used to jogtrot; she told me how millions of people a decade ago signed up on what was recorded as the grandest online campaign on transport system revamp. They assert on using energy-efficient trains and buses connecting the five Mindanao cities: Zamboanga, Ozamiz, Cagayan de Oro, Butuan and Davao. I recall how she drew the transportation lines in the pavement that her broom almost poked my hips when she pointed the abject, poverty-stricken BARMM. I vividly saw the fire scorching in her eyes. The passion for saving this archipelago was inundating. I swear to God.
However, I wonder how her life had been in 2020 but tales were told that such generation was the tipping point of economic dynamism and energy security. Papa said the pandemic occurred a decade ago was a blessing in disguise nevertheless. It forced consumer behavior to shift from cheaper, better goods and services into goods and services that contribute to the common good of the Filipino people. Market and trade fundamentals were regulated at par with environmental and energy standards. Companies and establishment policies had been reengineered not for those in the higher echelon of the society but for the planet. Human settlement and urban development required meticulous planning that solar panels mushroomed in each roof and energy was fairly and efficiently distributed. Of course, the transition made Mindanao resilient with energy shortage.
The woman in the park said that their generation is the best of all time had it not for the reduced child mortality, expanded literacy, strengthened employment of PWD. I think the legacy on environmental capitalism is my most favorite wisdom from her generation: a clean house results to a healthy mind, but a clean energy results to a healthy world.
Although I cannot perfect the fire in her eyes on the caricature, her wheelchair and broomstick tell us that an empowered individual can change this world despite the weaknesses and imperfections. I hope that you meet her someday, somewhere at the end of the road.